God and Tragedy in Secular Public Schools

God and Tragedy in Secular Public Schools December 15, 2012

Rev. Jeremy Smith posted some thoughts in response to those who claim that God being “uninvited” from schools has something to do with the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Randal Rauser did the same.

I would go even further than they do, even further than I did in my previous post on the topic.

The shooting in this elementary school was not carried out by some elementary-age child who had rebelled against God and, as a result, decided to kill lots of people. It was carried out by someone who came into a school where children, despite there being no formal religious activity or education imposed on them, were behaving in a civilized manner towards one another (as much as can be expected from children no matter their religious affiliation). And many lives were saved because teachers in that school, teachers who never imposed their religious views on the children, acted heroically to save their lives.

The claim that this has something to do with prayer being taken out of schools is absolute vile garbage.

But if you are still not convinced, then consider all the places where God is formally recognized, invoked, and addressed in prayer, while people within the congregation, in some instances even a pastor or priest or other member of the church's staff, engages in sexual or other forms of physical abuse against children.

Mentioning God is no safeguard against tragedy, nor against those who invoke God being engaged in heinous acts against children.

And so before you applaud the comments of Mike Huckabee, Eric Hovind, Bryan Fischer, and others like them, keep in mind that you are elevating the paying of lip service to God over concrete actions of faith and heroism, of the sort that are responsible for many lives having been saved in Sandy Hook Elementary School.

If you have nothing to say that is comforting, nothing to say that is not a thinly-veiled attempt to use intense suffering as an opportunity to try to score points for whatever team you think you represent, then you would do better to stay silent.



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  • 2squirrels

    We are all horrified at such a senseless event, regardless of religious or political views. Everyone will react differently based on their beliefs. I don’t believe that Gov. Huckabee or Rev. Smith are trying to “score points” for their team anymore than you are by writing this article, Mr. McGrath. At a time like this, we should consider all perspectives…

    • arcseconds

      McGrath has already considered this perspective, and it has obvious flaws.

      I mean, i can see how the thinking’s supposed to go: religion is the moral backbone of society, and without religion people turn into depraved monstrosities, or at least, have a greater tendency to do so.

      But if that were true, there wouldn’t be obvious counter-examples.

      Let me recap McGrath’s points:

      *) places with a ‘lack of God’ (which means lack of God-talk, after all, we’re not in a position to stop an incorporeal being from going where it wants, let alone an omnipotent and omnipresent one) are not correlated with ghastly crimes like gun-related violence and sexual abuse.

      (e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Importance_of_religion_by_country

      Estonia’s the least religious in that scale, but they are pretty violent, so that’s a bad example, but most of the rest of the countries in the top 15 or so have pretty low crime rates, especially for violent crime)

      *) places with plenty of ‘God’ (= God-talk) often do have a problem with ghastly crimes. McGrath uses the example of the abuses in churches, although the countries low on the list of importance of religion are instructive, too.

      Thing is, this is kinda obvious if you know anything and thought about it.

      The notion that Huckabee is trying to score points is actually a *charitable* interpretation of what he is doing. If he honestly believes what he is saying, then one of the following must be true:

      *) he’s so ignorant he doesn’t know of the obvious counter-examples to his claim

      *) he’s so stupid he hasn’t worked out that they are counter-examples

      *) he’s so ideologically blinkered that he refuses to see them as counter-examples.

      We could amuse ourselves by speculating on exactly what combination of machiavellia/ignorance/stupidity/ideological blinkeredness he has, but i don’t think it’s very useful. Whyever he’s doing it, it doesn’t hold water, so the only interest that remains in it is the part it plays in political discourse.

      There. Huckabee’s position considered. Now we can turn our attention to more sensible and informative positions.

  • It seems to me that comments like these make a sort of magic fetish of God. “If you just say the right things, nothing bad will happen.” So many things wrong with that view…

  • mteston1

    As I watched the news from that community in Connecticut which could be any community in any place on our planet I was stunned by the numbers that were inside and outside and on their way to where, a church. I suspect in a desperate attempt to grasp and understand the events of the day. As the camera lens spanned the inside of the church it panned across the front of the church where there hung a battered, broken, suffering, spent human form, as Isaiah would envisioned in his day and time, someone, something so marred and beaten almost unrecognizable as human. I was actually stunned by the image I have seen since the earliest days of my life. I remembered this was the same man who found it absolutely necessary to go to the other side and go face to face with that shell of a human seeking to destroy himself in a place called Geresenes, in a cemetery. It was the one hanging from the lumber that reminded me of what humanity is capable of doing to each other when we are not good caretakers of each other’s humanness. In all the horror that yesterday unleashed, in the midst of a media that had a literal field day preoccupied with the grotesque need to squeeze even children of their emotions, I sensed a holy presence, One who has been in touch with such horror, and I am reminded of the messenger who says to all of us this season, “peace on earth good will toward all. . .!”

  • Elle

    God does not live in schools or churches. God lives in hearts, Stop placing the blame for what happens in the world on God not being in the right place.

  • . David

    You are an idiot.

  • Simon

    So sad that some are eager to use The Heavenly Father and prayer for or against the reason the incident that happened in Conn. this is the end of days and these things are happening everyday, wether 29 or 1 at a time, the U.S. or s some other country. It’s the lack of Christ in people lives that these things happen. The murderer’s mother faith was in those guns and she was killed by them along with the those children. Don’t slam someone because of what they believe or don’t believe make sure you are ready to meet a Heavenly Father prepared when your time comes. If all were living right this would not be happening everywhere.

    • Susan Burns

      I think “end of days” paranoia is exactly why these things are happening. Christians have been taught that the world will end soon and better stock up on weaponry to protect your family when society disintegrates. That was the view of the shooters mother. Gun hoarding gives people a feeling of security just like any other form of hoarding. If they have enough guns maybe they can survive the rapture period. Less religion is the cure for this – not more.

  • cranston

    Thank you for putting succinctly all the thoughts that have been racing around my head since I read Huckabee’s vile assertions. There isn’t anything more needs to be said about that puffed up bag of wind.